I have never been into horror, either movie, book or comic. Not because I am afraid of ghosts or monsters, but more because I hate surprise (which is everywhere inside a horror movie) and disturbing graphics or description in comic or book. Only once in a while I will try reading a horror comic (or watch a horror movie), and commonly it was a light one.
So imagine how surprised I was when I found myself digging into Junji Ito’s manga collection couple of weeks ago. It was purely driven by curiousity because I saw someone’s comment in internet that stated that Junji Ito’s manga was the best horror manga he ever read. I started to read some of Junji Ito’s one-shots collection, and unexpectedly, I was drawn into it.
Ito-sensei’s art is truly disturbing (and disgusting as per to say), yet the story is so interesting, I just could not stop reading it. Commonly the protagonists in the stories were victims of either curse, alien attack, ghosts, society who had nerves breakdown or unexplained phenomenons. In another hand, Ito-sensei had also made some evil-main-characters who were lunatic and would not mind to hurt other people, including their family. It was no surprise that there was no happy ending in any of Junji Ito’s story. Some of the stories indeed have some dark comedy, but even inside that, there would be some victims who had to suffer (read: die) in a pitiful situation.
The most popular titles of Junji Ito’s were Uzumaki (Spiral) and Gyo. Besides those two, Junji Ito has wide collection of one-shots (Itou Junji Kyoufu Manga Collection), and other stories such as Black Paradox and Hellstar Remina (you can check the other titles in wiki).
Uzumaki (Spiral), one of my favorite titles, telling us story about citizens of Kurôzu-cho, a city which was affected by a supernatural curse involving spirals. The main protagonists were Kirie Goshima and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito. Though she did not believe it in the beginning when Shuichi told him about the curse, day by day, Kirie had been witnessing how the spiral curse affected people around them, including her own family. Not only that, the curse then destroyed all buildings inside the city, and eventually forced the citizens to build shelter houses in the shape of giant spiral. Kirie and Shuichi then tried to get out from the city, but could they make it? (sorry, no spoiler :p).
What I remember the most from Uzumaki was the snail man, which, as the name indicated, was disgusting. To come up with such an idea was pretty cool, and I salute Ito-sensei for his originality.
Then there were short stories about Hikizuri siblings, who I confirm as the craziest family in the world. It was not even clear if they were truly humans, or actually came from another world. This was one story which I mentioned had some dark comedy inside, but of course, with psycho twist as expected from Ito-sensei.
Another collection of short stories which also stays in my mind was story about Souichi and his family. In most of the stories, Souichi would always try to hurt his cousin, Michina, and his brother Kouichi just because he did not like them. Souichi was one of those twisted characters which I could not accept logically in my head, but still made me curious to know what he would do next.
Overall, I have to admit, aligned with that someone in the internet, that Junji Ito’s manga was the best horror manga I have ever read. It is dark, full of twists, have psycopath characters, unexplained phenomenon, and no clear nor happy ending in any of the stories. Perfectly created for horror lovers!